7 August 2014 - An Independent Police Conduct Authority report released today found a Police officer was justified in fatally shooting Antony Ratahi in order to protect himself, his fellow officers and Mr Ratahi’s former partner (Ms Z) whom he had taken hostage in an Opunake hotel 12 hours earlier.
In releasing today’s report, Independent Police Conduct Authority Chair, Judge Sir David Carruthers said Police were faced with an incredibly dangerous situation and courageously put their own lives at risk to ensure the safety of Mr Ratahi's hostage.
“Although the incident ended in the death of Mr Ratahi, Police can be praised for their actions and approach in ensuring the successful removal of his hostage without injury to anyone else involved,” Sir David said.
Prior to the incident on 15 July 2011, Mr Ratahi had recently been released from prison after serving a three-month sentence for assaulting Ms Z.
Mr Ratahi was well known to Police given his history of threatening and violent behaviour towards Ms Z and in preparation for his release from prison Police had prepared a safety plan, which included arranging for an urgent response from local Police, if they were called to an incident involving Ms Z.
Mr Ratahi was also made subject to a protection order which prohibited him from entering the rural township of Opunake where Ms Z lived and worked and was, at the time of the incident, on bail for breaching that order.
In the days leading up to the incident, Mr Ratahi had attempted to obtain a firearm but only managed to acquire an air pistol. Then, on 15 July 2011 Mr Ratahi drove to Opunake and entered the Headlands Hotel where Ms Z worked as a waitress, at 9:45pm.
One of the restaurant staff recognised Mr Ratahi and called the Police. Inside the hotel Mr Ratahi brought out the air pistol and demanded that all of those inside, other than Ms Z, leave or they would be shot.
At the same time local Police arrived at the hotel and cordoned off the area. Shortly after, the Armed Offenders Squad and Police Negotiation Team were called to attend the incident and after the negotiation process with Mr Ratahi failed to progress, the Police Special Tactics Group was called to assist.
Further attempts to talk to Mr Ratahi were made throughout the night during which time Mr Ratahi threatened to shoot Police officers. At 10:19am on Saturday 16 July Police managed to draw Mr Ratahi out of the hotel with a view of safely rescuing Ms Z and arresting Mr Ratahi. At the same time as Mr Ratahi exited the building an AOS dog handler released his dog. Seeing this, Mr Ratahi quickly began retreating but the Police dog managed to take hold of Mr Ratahi’s leg. A team of AOS and STG officers followed the dog calling on Mr Ratahi to surrender. Mr Ratahi did not comply with these instructions and instead, dragged the Police dog, which was still latched onto his leg, back inside the hotel with him.
The AOS and STG officers forced the reception entrance door open. At this time Mr Ratahi was running up the stairs but he then quickly turned around and came back down the stairs towards the officers and Ms Z. As he reached the bottom of the stairs the officers and Ms Z saw Mr Ratahi reach into his jacket. Believing Mr Ratahi was reaching for a gun, an STG officer who feared for the safety of Ms Z, his fellow officers and himself, fired a single shot that struck Mr Ratahi in the head. Mr Ratahi instantly fell face down on the floor.
The officers then attempted to provide medical assistance and a short time later, after the building had been secured, paramedics examined Mr Ratahi and confirmed he had died.
“The officer who shot Mr Ratahi was justified in doing so. He believed that Mr Ratahi posed an immediate threat of death or serious bodily harm to his hostage, the officers nearby and the officer himself,” Sir David said.